Warehousing in a Time of Diminished Returns


Probably the most annoying fact about the current recession is that while profits may be down, data requirements keep going up. The means enterprises at all economic levels will have to continue making investments in data warehousing technology even if it means cutting into other budgets to do so.

But while one sector of the economy loses, the other gains. And in this case, the gainers are the warehousing companies, which have been integrating their platforms and rolling out new products at a steady clip.

The latest endeavor comes from SAP and Teradata, which have announced a deal to run the NetWeaver Business Warehouse natively on the Teradata platform, adding another integration win for SAP's business intelligence software lineup. The companies say the goal is to provide a more streamlined environment for customers who are already running the two systems together, and providing a wider range of options for SAP customers beyond the company's customary partnership with IBM.

It's hard not to look at anything SAP does outside the prism of its rivalry with Oracle Corp., which made a big splash last week with its buyout of Sun Microsystems. Integrating with Teradata offers more of the hardware/software mix that the Oracle/Sun deal suggests is in high demand among enterprise customers. And while it doesn't rise to the level of a fully unified system, it does take away many of the hassles that usually come with integrating products on your own.

Meanwhile, Oracle is moving forward on its own warehousing platform, even as the vast majority of its energy will be devoted to the merger over the next few months. The company recently added a retail data model to its database portfolio designed to improve warehousing capabilities for everyone ranging from grocery stores to mass merchandisers and multi-channel retailers. The pack specializes on stock management, loss prevention, customer clustering/segmentation and sales and promotion analysis. It operates on the Oracle Database platform, the HP Oracle Database Machine and HP Oracle Exadata Storage servers.

IBM isn't lying still either. The company recently bolstered its DB2 database with a new version of the InfoSphere Warehouse software aimed at streamlining the creation and deployment of warehouses and warehouse applications, with a heavy concentration on data analysis for mid-sized organizations. The package was released in conjunction with new workload management and system admin tools for the DB2 that, among other advantages, makes it easier to bring third-party applications into the platform.

The traditional view of warehousing is that of a cost center -- one of those jobs that had to get done for the sake of the government and the courts. The good news is the newest systems offer the kinds of tools and techniques needed to reduce costs and maintain a competitive advantage. And when placed on a cloud architecture, warehousing can be leased out to other users to become a revenue-generator on its own.